1892 - 1952
'Autobiography Of A Yogi' became a spiritual classic soon after its initial publication and continues to fly off the bookstore shelves to this very day. Paramhansa Yogananda was the first great Indian master to live in the West for an extended period of time and his story explains with scientific clarity the subtle but definite laws by which yogis perform miracles and attain self-mastery.
There has been some confusion, dispute and litigation with regards to the organizations that carry on with his work and message - most notably Self-Realization Fellowship and Ananda. Vital Spark staff will not endorse any specific systematized route to the apex of this particular mystical mountain but we do wholeheartedly recommend the teachings of this most remarkable human being.
The Life of Yogananda
In the hundred years since the birth of Paramahansa Yogananda, this beloved world teacher has come to be recognized as one of the greatest emissaries to the West of India's ancient wisdom. His life and teachings continue to be a source of light and inspiration to people of all races, cultures and creeds.
Early Life and Spiritual Search
Paramahansa Yogananda was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur, India, into a devout and well-to-do Bengali family. From his earliest years, it was evident to those around him that the depth of his awareness and experience of the spiritual was far beyond the ordinary. In his youth he sought out many of India's sages and saints, hoping to find an illumined teacher to guide him in his spiritual quest.
It was in 1910, at the age of 17, that he met and became a disciple of the revered Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri. In the hermitage of this great master of Yoga he spent the better part of the next ten years, receiving Sri Yukteswar's strict but loving spiritual discipline. After he graduated from Calcutta University in 1915, he took formal vows as a monk of India's venerable monastic Swami Order, at which time he received the name Yogananda (signifying bliss, ananda, through divine union, yoga). His ardent desire to consecrate his life to the love and service of God thus found fulfillment.
The Beginning of a World Mission
Yogananda began his life's work with the founding, in 1917, of a "how-to-live" school for boys, where modern educational methods were combined with yoga training and instruction in spiritual ideals. Visiting the school a few years later, Mahatma Gandhi wrote: "This institution has deeply impressed my mind."
In 1920, Yogananda was invited to serve as India's delegate to an international congress of religious leaders convening in Boston. His address to the congress, on "The Science of Religion," was enthusiastically received. That same year he founded Self-Realization Fellowship to disseminate worldwide his teachings on India's ancient science and philosophy of Yoga and its time-honored tradition of meditation.
For the next several years, he lectured and taught on the East coast and in 1924 embarked on a cross-continental speaking tour. The following year, he established in Los Angeles an international headquarters for Self-Realization Fellowship, which became the spiritual and administrative heart of his growing work.
A Pioneer of Yoga in the West
Over the next decade, Yogananda traveled and lectured widely, speaking to capacity audiences in many of the largest auditoriums in the country -- from New York's Carnegie Hall to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Los Angeles Times reported: "The Philharmonic Auditorium presents the extraordinary spectacle of thousands....being turned away an hour before the advertised opening of a lecture with the 3000-seat hall filled to its utmost capacity."
Yogananda emphasized the underlying unity of the world's great religions, and taught universally applicable methods for attaining direct personal experience of God. To serious students of his teachings he introduced the soul-awakening techniques of Kriya Yoga, a sacred spiritual science originating millenniums ago in India, which had been lost in the Dark Ages and revived in modern times by his lineage of enlightened masters.
Among those who became his students were many prominent figures in science, business, and the arts, including horticulturist Luther Burbank, operatic soprano Amelita Galli-Curci, George Eastman (inventor of the Kodak camera), poet Edwin Markham, and symphony conductor Leopold Stokowski. In 1927, he was officially received at the White House by President Calvin Coolidge, who had become interested in the newspaper reports of his activities.
Return to India (1935 - 1936)
In 1935, Yogananda began an 18-month tour of Europe and India. During his yearlong sojourn in his native land, he spoke in cities throughout the subcontinent and enjoyed meetings with Mahatma Gandhi (who requested initiation in Kriya Yoga), Nobel-prize-winning physicist Sir C. V. Raman, and some of India's renowned spiritual figures, including Sri Ramana Maharshi and Anandamoyi Ma. It was during this year also that his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, bestowed on him India's highest spiritual title, Paramahansa. Literally supreme swan (a symbol of spiritual discrimination), the title signifies one who manifests the supreme state of unbroken communion with God.
Final Years and Mahasamadhi
During the 1930s, Paramahansa Yogananda began to withdraw somewhat from his nationwide public lecturing so as to devote himself to the writings that would carry his message to future generations, and to building an enduring foundation for the spiritual and humanitarian work of Self-Realization Fellowship (known in India as Yogoda Satsanga Society).
Under his direction, the personal guidance and instruction that he had given to students of his classes was arranged into a comprehensive series of Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons for home study.
Yogananda's life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, was published in 1946 and expanded by him in subsequent editions. A perennial best seller, the book has been in continuous publication since it first appeared and has been translated into 18 languages. It is widely regarded as a modern spiritual classic.
On March 7, 1952, Paramahansa Yogananda entered Mahasamadhi, a God-illumined master's conscious exit from the body at the time of physical death. His passing was marked by an extraordinary phenomenon. A notarized statement signed by the Director of Forest Lawn Memorial-Park testified: "No physical disintegration was visible in his body even twenty days after death....This state of perfect preservation of a body is, so far as we know from mortuary annals, an unparalleled one....Yogananda's body was apparently in a phenomenal state of immutability."
On the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Paramahansa Yogananda's passing, his far-reaching contributions to the spiritual upliftment of humanity were given formal recognition by the Government of India. A special commemorative stamp was issued in his honor, together with a tribute that read, in part:
For more information about Yogananda and the Self-Realization Fellowship
visit their website at www.yogananda-srf.org
"The ideal of love for God and service to humanity found full expression in the life of Paramahansa Yogananda....Though the major part of his life was spent outside India, still he takes his place among our great saints. His work continues to grow and shine ever more brightly, drawing people everywhere on the path of the pilgrimage of the Spirit."
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Is Prayer Meditation?
by Paramhansa Yogananda
From Inner Culture magazine, September 1939
Question: In what way is meditation
different from prayer? - R.H.
Answer: Ordinary prayer consists in addressing our desires, half in belief and half in doubt, to an unknown God. Never pray with disbelief in your heart, or with a sense of hopelessness, thinking that God will not listen to your prayers. The only way to know God through prayer is by persistency, regularity, and depth of loving effort.
Pray intelligently, with a bursting soul, seldom loudly, mostly mentally, without displaying to anyone what is happening within you. Pray mostly in your own words of love and yearning, not in the borrowed language of others all the time. Pray until you are absolutely sure of the divine contact, then claim your material, mental, or spiritual needs from the Most High as your divine birthright.
Concentration on God
Meditation is very different from the usual prayer. It is concentration used only to know God. Don't remain on the surface of words. Your soul must dive deep into the ocean of perception. God-contact can be accomplished through regular, intense, long-continued meditations. During meditation, any material vibration sent forth by the ego, or body consciousness, helps to awaken the material desire to revive the consciousness of the body, and to dispel the consciousness of the vastness in Spirit. While the demons of sensations and thoughts dance in the temples of body and mind, it is difficult to recognize God, who remains hidden behind the veil of silence within.
You must remember that during deep meditation, when the breath becomes calm, a very enjoyable state of peace is produced, but due to the ego-consciousness, the thought of the body returns, and the fickle, loud breath revives, rousing all material desires and sense-distractions. You should not be discouraged at this, but, by deeper meditation, learn to calm the breath and the senses.
Out of the Silence
Never mind if you cannot at first contact God or hear His knock at the gate of your heart. For a long time you have been hiding from Him and running away in the marsh of the senses. It is the noise of your own rowdy passions and the flight of your heavy footsteps in the material world that have made you unable to hear His call within. Stop, be calm, meditate deeply, and out of the silence will loom forth the Divine Presence.
God responds to law. All those who conform to the law can test and experience it for themselves. Physical laws have to be interpreted by the physical senses and judged by the understanding. Divine laws have to be comprehended by concentration, meditation, and intuition. God can never hide from the person who exercises devotion, love, the law of meditation, and the soul-call. God never fails to listen to all soul-calls, but He does not always respond in the way that we expect Him.
When ever-new, ever-increasing joy fills your silence, then know that you have contacted God, and that He is answering through the receiving instrument of your soul.
Use your deepest meditation mingled with your utmost devotion in the silent hours of the night, at the break of dawn, or in the hidden glow of twilight, in seeking an answer to your desires. Meditate and use your will power steadily day after day, week after week, year after year, until the cosmic silence of ages is broken and you receive your answer. You will not have to wait for ages, for you will find in deep meditation that God's Spirit of Bliss will hover around you and talk to you through the voice of peace.
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Why Is Life So Full Of Tests?
by Paramhansa Yogananda
From Inner Culture magazine, April 1941
Through tests we learn life's lessons. Tests are not meant to crush us: They are to develop our powers. They come through the natural law of progress and are necessary for us to advance from lower to higher steps.
Mind is the source of all your troubles and all your happiness. You really are stronger than all your tests. If you don't realize it now, you will have to realize it later. God has given you the power to control your mind and body and thus be free from pain and sorrow. Never say, "I am through." Do not poison your mind by thinking that if you walk a little more you will over-exert yourself, or if you cannot get certain foods you will suffer, and so on.
Never allow your mind to entertain thoughts of illness or limitation: You will see your body change for the better. Remember that mind is the power that is creating this body, and if the mind is weak, the body becomes weak. Don't grieve or worry about anything.
If you strengthen your mind, you will not feel bodily pains. No matter what happens, you must be absolutely free in your mind. As in a dream, you may think that you are ill but, awakened by a slap, you see it is not true. So in the state of wakefulness you must know that this life is also nothing but a dream. Mind has no connection with the body apart from what connection you give it. When your mind can completely remain apart from the body at will, you will be free. Remember that you are immortal.
In order to pass life's tests, you will need rejuvenation in both body and mind. You will need to develop elasticity of the mind. If you can't meet life's tests, you will be helpless when trials and tribulations come.
At times life seems to be a cruel game. The only justification for it is that in reality it is only a dream. You have had many experiences through many incarnations and you will have others in future incarnations, but they should not frighten you. You must play all parts in the motion picture of life, inwardly saying, "I am Spirit." This is the great consolation that wisdom gives us.
Realize the presence of the Infinite. Behold God, your own Father, your own Spirit, behind the shadows. In your heart of hearts realize this, no matter what your impulses dictate. Let nothing sit on the throne of your heart but God. If you love God's creation more than God, you will be disillusioned. God must be first, last, and always. Do not follow the dictates of this earthly dreamland, for dreams sometimes turn into nightmares. Break this dream delusion by waking in God, and you will be safe forever.
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Spiritualizing the Newspapers
by Paramhansa Yogananda
From East-West, March-April 1928
"Blessed are those who do not indulge in sensational news."
Millions start the day with the gruesome sight of murder headlines in the morning newspapers. The sleep-refreshed young mentality starts the day's race for success with the dark cloud of wrong thoughts hanging over his mind. The law of "All's well that starts well" is trampled upon.
Newspapers have more or less become the tin gods worshipped by the mass mind. They can make or unmake a man, at least in the public eye. Human opinion, however, and God's opinion are different. One forsaken by all humanity may not be forsaken by the God of Truth. One worshipped by all the world may not be true to himself. He may not be acceptable in the eyes of Truth. It is the duty of truth-loving people to reform the newspapers since they almost completely control unthinking, child-like mentalities.
Modern journalism originated in the desire of man to know all about his fellow man and about his environment. The busy man looks at a paper and at a glance knows in what relation his business and social affairs stand with the community. Newspapers are the gods of information. They are the soul of modern business. They are the epitome of the city news. The modern world cannot get along without them. They can act as the breath of life to noble human activities or they can react like chlorine gas to asphyxiate people's independent thinking.
Through the sluice-gates of newspapers the reservoir of human mentalities is constantly fed. That is why a truth-loving country should keep a strict eye on the operation of these gates through which the river of information flows into the public mind. Muddy and defiled water must not be allowed in when clean and sparkling streams are available.
Freedom of the press must respect the law by which true freedom can alone exist. Intoxicated with the wine of freedom, some newspapers often abuse their powers. They often do not know how to operate the gates of information. They have not learned how to exercise self-control and thus prevent the wild river of muddled information from overrunning and clogging the tank of human mentalities. Moreover, newspapers ought not to introduce poisonous news into the tank of human minds, for the thirsty, undiscriminative masses drink poisonous, unwholesome news wherever they find it and hence suffer with nervousness, worry, fear and subconscious criminal suggestions.
In a few minutes a newspaper prints the heading: "Four hold-up men cleaned up a million. No trace of the robbers found." The weak and poverty-stricken, or criminally-bent mentality reads it and induces a few friends to join him to try to get rich quick by this unholy method. Unwholesome news whets the appetite for crime.
Hold-ups at the point of the gun with the aid of automobiles were unknown in many parts of the world until the idea was unwittingly introduced into the minds of weak mentalities through the channels of western newspapers and movies. That is why sensational movies and newspapers should be gradually crowded out by educating the tastes of children and adults to a higher standard.
Some newspapers and some film producers, in order to be the best sellers of the day, vie with one another in breaking all gates of propriety, morality, purity and truth in order to overflood and devastate human mentalities with their sensationalism. In order to reform sensational movies and newspapers we must first reform ourselves and our children. "Catering-ism" is the watchword in everything in America. Business, religion, lectures, all must be made to suit what is called "public demand."
That is wrong, unless the demand is wholesome. If people want to eat cocaine, opium, cobra poison, or to indulge in a flattering religion which is afraid to even constructively criticize, or to hear only those lectures which gloss over and explain away their faults, should the business men, religious leaders and lecturers reason, let us give the people what they want, let us sell them poison, flattery and untruth, let us thus kill their souls and choke their mentalities of progress, it doesn't matter since we are getting rich? No right-thinking man would want society to be run along such lines.
The law of honesty should be the policy of newspapers, movie concerns, business men, religious leaders and reformers. They should only cater to the wholesome taste of people. That will bring out the latent good taste even in apparently lost souls who have artificially developed a bad taste for good things.
Who is responsible if the described-in-detail crime news, murder headlines and indirect divorce suggestions begin to influence and mold the clay mentalities of children, burning and hardening them into fixed habit-thoughts of evil? Is not sensationalism responsible for taking a large part in suggesting crime in children and to weak mentalities? Let us save the masses from the drug of sensationalism. Let us have more newspapers with aims and platforms like the Christian Science Monitor and a few other American papers who are trying to be fair and constructive. The New York World has a "Department of Accuracy and Fair Play" which investigates and gives publicity to cases of false and unjust publicity. This is a step in the right direction.
Some newspapers have grown bold and despotic in order to be the best sellers. They don't stop at anything. They libel a man, writing half-truths or evading the true facts about him, just for the sake of sensationalism. They give headlines to scandalize him, and syndicate their news, for most papers take it and swallow it wholesale. They murder a man's life-long-earned reputation in a few minutes and go scot [??sic] free, laughing. If the person is exonerated and the time for retraction comes, no more headlines. Most of the papers hide behind indifference, do not print the retraction, saying it has no news interest. If they do print it, they give it an insignificant place. If the man sues in court for libel, the process is endless and expensive, and some newspapers even encourage this as a publicity stunt. They employ the best attorneys to fight the libel case. If they lose some money they make up their losses by printing more sensational headlines like the following:
"Reverend John Denies He Was a Bandit and Criminal." The unthoughtful people are led to buy the papers out of curiosity and thus unknowingly patronize injustice. Some religionists will then raise a hue and cry and say, "Oh, don't sue the papers; that's against Christ's principles." That's a fine view, but why not root out the evil instead of allowing it to grow to be later endured by Christ principles?
Many people will remember the case in London a few years ago of "Mr. A." Hari Singh of Kashmir, who was blackmailed by a woman and her accomplices. Under threat of blackmail and of newspaper headlines of scandal, the woman and her accomplices extracted seven hundred thousand dollars from the Prince. Later on we hear that the Prince told of this unfortunate experience to one of the English judges.
The judge felt a righteous indignation and began to move heaven and earth to break the net of blackmailers who prey upon wealthy or noted people, public men and great ministers by falsely scandalizing them and extracting money from them on threat of newspaper headlines.
Thus we hear a law was passed in England by which all cases of blackmail involving noted persons are heard behind closed doors without the presence of newspaper men. When a case of this kind is settled, only a short correct report is given to the newspapers. No mention is ever made of the nature of the charge if the blackmailed man is found guiltless.
Should not America enact such laws and safeguard the lives of public men and women which consist in their reputation? Besides, the English newspapers are very conservative and make thorough investigation before passing any remarks about a public man. The English libel laws are very strict and rigidly enforced, which is far from being the case in America.
No Public Man Is Safe
From a thorough study of the situation of public life in America, I am of the opinion that the reputation of no public man is safe from being wrongly newspaper-handled. Many newspapers try to create prejudice against individuals and nations to suit their nefarious ends of narrow, bigoted, short-sighted political views.
Bad-motived newspapers, lecturers, books, movies and magazines can let loose all the messengers of evil-racial hatred, seeds of war, prejudice, too strict immigration laws based on pure injustice or political inequality or racial and color prejudice, gossip, scandal, love of criminal news, and thrills by the suffering of others.
Such newspapers, instead of teaching Christ-love which promises forgiveness and spiritual help even to Mary Magdalene, just try to foster intolerance and revengefulness, self-deception and persecution of others for a fault which the persecutors themselves do not try to get rid of, or sometimes for no fault at all.
Some syndicating news agencies at times make wholesale productions of lies and baseless scandals. I have studied and examined so many cases of untruthful exaggerations, whipped and bluffed untruths, that I wonder how the Sunday sheets of some papers containing sensational news can continue to exist.
However, one hardly ever sees any contradictions made by the persons persecuted. Why is this? I hear there is an unwritten law among some newspapers that when they are sued for libel they keep silent about it and that news is not syndicated. Since they control public opinion they don't want to turn the wrathful spotlights of public opinion on themselves, whereas they rejoice when they turn those furious burning lights on some innocent person.
Most papers gloat at the prospect of scandalizing someone. They are too ready and willing to use the materials cunningly supplied by blackmailers, but often quite unwilling to print retractions and save the reputation of innocent people from being murdered at the hands of evil publicity. Do Christian newspapermen consider this is right?
Seeing this condition of evil present amongst some conscienceless sensation-loving newspapers, I have a suggestion to make. Let the leading business men, ministers and worthy public men of each city come together to form a board for educating the newspapers. Any public man or society scandalized by any unscrupulous newspaper or syndicate of newspapers should be invited to state its case and give positive proofs of newspaper untruth or false insinuations to the above-mentioned board. Let the board members investigate, and when the person or society is found to have been attacked without adequate grounds, let them write or visit the mischief-making newspaper publishers and editors and exercise their powerful influence to make the newspapers give the same amount of space, kinds of type, position and page to the retraction as they gave to the attack.
The city fathers should also write to the syndicating news agencies requesting them to print retractions for maligned persons. The syndicates and local newspapers should be made to consult the members of the above-mentioned board before printing any scandal about a prominent man or society. Last of all, the newspapers must be taught by the board to respect others' freedom as they love their own.
Freedom of the press to print anything it chooses about anybody by writing in a clever insinuating way and distorting the truth should be accompanied by the freedom of giving the persons criticized a chance to reply in the same way. It is cowardly to attack a defenseless, forcibly-made-voiceless person. The same page position, kind of types and forcible language used to criticize a person should be used in printing the reply of the person criticized, if he so desires. There should be no putting off of the retraction or explanation by saying the news is old and uninteresting.
I once heard an account of a conversation between a reporter and an editor about a Peace Conference. The editor listened with disgust and obvious lack of interest in his eyes as the reporter related how smoothly the Peace Conference went along. At last the editor said, "Go put that news in ten lines of small type on the last inside page of the paper."
The reporter, realizing that he had not brought news of interest, suddenly remembered a little incident which took place in the Peace Conference and exclaimed, "Sir, the President of the Peace Conference lost his temper in suppressing a crazy man who was saying irrelevant things and trying to disturb the Conference."
The editor quickly turned to the reporter, his face beaming with the joy of evil smiles, and said, "Get busy, put headlines on the front page, `The President of the Peace Conference Loses Peace.'"
If some newspapers want to make half truths or exaggerated truths sensational they should make the real truth prominent and interesting too.
A Friend's Suggestion
A sincere friend of mine, Mr. Telford Groesbeck, a prominent citizen of Cincinnati, once said to me, "Please tell the newspapers in your lectures that we do not want the murder and scandal headlines at all. If they still think that some of the public need it or are interested in it, let them print about murders, arsons, divorces and gossip on a loose page and let them make the letters on that page as big and blood red in color as they want, calling it `Red Scandal Page.'
When these newspapers are sent into good homes like ours let them be sent without that `Red Scandal Page,' thus saving our children and homes from being infected with such destructive thoughts."
Half truths and distorted truths are worse than the blackest of lies. They are very hard to fight. Yet I believe that though evil travels with the wind, nevertheless truth has the power to travel against the wind. Catering to evil tastes will precipitate more evil, disorder, inharmony and suffering into society, and since newspapers are universally read by people, they should act like wholesome, reforming parents and not like murderers who secretly stab those who seek their protection.
Of all social crimes, the crime of press distortion and giving prominence to scandals is of the most unfathomable harm to the rising world generation. Let us all by moral persuasion, love, determination and practical measures reform the newspapers and rid them of their epidemic of sensationalism.
Jesus and all world-teachers taught us to sympathize with and help people in error, whereas sensationalism creates the desire to rejoice in others' shortcomings. Christian newspapers that have sinned and indulged in sensationalism should repent and cease from further blunders. Let us spiritualize the newspapers.
Let the morning and evening papers carry headlines on the front page containing the brave sayings of Jesus or the great prophets. Let men, women and children wake up beholding words of truth. Let them sleep, dreaming thoughts of restful, peace-giving truth and lasting joy celestial that dwells within them.
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